(My notes for a message I gave in July 2010, God was preparing me for the trial my family would face, and this was the message that paved the way for me to stand through all of this. I pray it helps you stand through whatever it is you are going through.)
NIV | Hab 3:17 Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. 19 The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights. For the director of music. On my stringed instruments.
Our Scripture comes from the book of Habakkuk, not a huge book, one that is a little difficult to find, I’ll tell you an aside, right after I was asked to speak here, I went looking for the Scripture in the Bible. I actually had to find the page number from the table of contents. Poor me, I kept turning past it, I said “Habakkuk… where are you?” Ok I know I’ve said too much, I’ll never teach here again.
Anyway, we have in Habakkuk an awesome picture of a prophet, a child of God, trying to figure out the why’s in the trouble he was seeing. Why would the righteous suffer injustice? Why does it feel like God is not listening? Etc. And the Lord responds to Habakkuk’s first round of questions showing how God is working and involved in the affairs in the World. We don’t serve a God who just did a Big Bang and walked away like Deists state. No, we serve a God who is an active participant in our lives. So the first response we get from the Lord is that He is working and all of these things are a part of His plan.
Habakkuk then asks a follow-up question struggling with, “How could God allow an evil nation, the Babylonians, punish the people of God?” Explaining how horribly evil they are Habakkuk goes so far as to question God’s ability to protect. God’s response was to acknowledge the evilness of the Babylonians and that they too will fall into judgment and be destroyed. So we can be comforted in knowing that the God, active in our lives is also righteous and just. Yes it may seem like a punishment to us at the time, but in the eyesight of God, He has the plans, He knows what needs to happen.
So here let’s stop for a moment and notice something. I really like Habakkuk and many other Biblical people because we get to see that God allows us to have questions; He allows us to have emotions. God does not want us to be wind-up dolls or toy soldiers that have no will. We were created in His image with identity and purpose. We are allowed to question, doubt, struggle, sin, repent, fail, succeed, etc. So people like Habakkuk give me hope that I ain’t that far off from other men of God. You too need to realize that you won’t always get it right and you won’t always have all of the answers.
Here is where we turn to our text today, to the Psalm that Habakkuk composed as a response to acknowledging the faithfulness of God. Let’s read it again:
Hab 3:17 Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls.
Habakkuk responds in the face of the calamities and after listing all of the problems changes the entire tone with one simple word, “YET!”
Hab 3:18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
He is not simply just bowing to the pressure and getting pounded. He is not going to take this in defeated mode. This is more than just toughing it out or dealing with the pain. No, Habakkuk is going into this with REJOICE. YET I WILL EXAULT THE LORD! I will make my boast in the Lord I will walk with confidence through this thing. This is our image here. I can look at this for me as a Christian going through a trial victorious! not a victim. You’ve got to go into this thing with the right attitude, the attitude of praise, the attitude that “I ain’t gonna let nothing, nobody turn me around!” The devil is a liar, I am victorious in Christ, I have been set free from the bondage of sin, though I might not see it right now Lord I KNOW you are working this out for good because I serve you Lord. He is rejoicing in the God Who is his Savoir.
See, your salvation and your peace and your joy does not depend on things going well. Praise God! The events around you do not define you, the power of God in You defines who you are. We do not praise because of some external force or view, but we praise God, because He is the God of our salvation!
A Christian is not looking at the world for our joy, we shouldn’t be tempted by the bling of the ring or the fancy car, the attractive things the world flashes our way. We won’t be taken in by debt, we will not be caught up in the things of this world because we KNOW that we know that we know; He is our savior, He is our provider.
David had it right when he said “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil… surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.”
(get this in your mind, walking demonstration) Walking in faith, through the valley, you have His goodness and you have His mercy. Each step you’re taking, you have Goodness and Mercy. My cup runs over! Goodness and Mercy! Psalm 136 says over and again “His Love Endures Forever!” He will never fail us, he will always keep us! The entire present world may pass away, but God’s grace to his people shall endure. Thank God His faithfulness to me is not linked to my faithfulness to Him. God never fails and always keeps and sustains. The Lord is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?
During these trials, Habakkuk’s relationship with God is more dominating in his life than emotional distress and economical difficulties. This is where we have to get as a Christian. Our relationship to God, must be dominating our emotional response. No matter what the world shows me, what I have is many times better. In a world which sees almost everything in economic terms, we must consider Habakkuk’s faith. Though the worst things in life happen, we need a faith which depends on God and not on circumstance. This truly is an example of “the righteous shall live by his faith.” He would keep on trusting in God despite any calamity which might come upon him and his country. Faith in God is the key lesson from the book of Habakkuk. Although all of these things are going on in your life, the righteous shall live by faith.
There’s freedom and victory in trusting in God, something carnal man cannot understand. There’s joy not found in any other, there’s a peace, not understood. Let that job not come your way, let that car break down, let that house foreclose; but knowing this, that the God who woke you up this morning will carry your through the day and lay your head in rest at night.
Oh such joy, such unspeakable joy! Too many people try to buy joy, but joy is available for everyone, even those whose lives have been stripped of material possessions. I often look in awe at the joy in the faces of the abandoned in the AIDS hospice in Jamaica. They have so much peace and joy because nothing is in the way of their relationship with God. They ain’t got nothing blocking out His voice! And here we are filling our ears, eyes and mind with so many things when God just wants us to spend some time with Him.
Let me close by reading excerpts from the 18th Psalm.
Psalm 18:1 The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies.
In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears. The earth trembled and quaked, and the foundations of the mountains shook; they trembled because he was angry. Smoke rose from his nostrils; consuming fire came from his mouth, burning coals blazed out of it. He parted the heavens and came down;
He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the LORD was my support.
The LORD lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be God my Savior! He is the God who avenges me, who subdues nations under me, who saves me from my enemies. You exalted me above my foes; from violent men you rescued me. Therefore I will praise you among the nations, O LORD; I will sing praises to your name.
Many of you might have listened and wondered to yourself, Why don’t I have that joy? why am I not able to walk in victory like I see my brother or my sister over here? what’s wrong with me? My friend, you only need revival.
If you are unsaved, let me explain, an unsaved mind cannot understand Christian joy. To know what is meant by communion with Christ, by the witness of the Spirit, and by the love of God, you must experience them ourselves. No words can fully express this joy. If this is you, and this Word has spoken into your life then you need to come and meet the One Who will change you, only He can do it.
If you are saved and just not experiencing the joy spoken about here. Your life may or may not be full of trouble, but you just don’t feel that joy anymore. You need a refilling, a fresh touch, a revival. Come back to your first love and tell Him today, “Lord, I will praise you, no matter what’s going on around me.”
Let us pray.
NIV | 1 Pe 1:8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,
Deuteronomy 8:3 He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.